Question: What is mouth alcohol in Maryland?

Answer: Mouth alcohol is the concept that when you drink something with a high amount of alcohol—say a shot of whiskey, shot of bourbon, shot of anything, vodka—that has a high alcohol content—or it could be something like beer—but, if you are getting ready to leave the bar and you have just one more for the road, then the remnants of the alcohol that you consumed stay in your mouth for a while. And if you are stopped shortly after leaving the bar and the officer asks you to do the preliminary breath test or the roadside breath test, chances are the number that you blow into that machine, which we’ve already indicated are not reliable for different reasons, and here is one of them: because of the mouth alcohol that you could have in your mouth at the time you are blowing.

This could significantly impact that PBT number. I mean, it could drive a 0.05 number or a 0.08 number, it could double that number, or higher. You could have a 0.05 and it could come out as a 0.10 or higher; a 0.10 could come out as a 0.20 maybe, if you still have the remnants, the mouth alcohol in your mouth at the time of blowing. That is why when you are arrested, under Maryland law they have to wait 20 minutes at a minimum before asking you to blow in the real breath machine back at the police station, because the point is they’re trying to get rid of the mouth alcohol. Now, there are other ways to get mouth alcohol in one’s mouth other than just having left the bar.

If you burp or if you regurgitate in your mouth or if you cough or you do something of this nature prior to blowing into the machine, you can be in significant trouble because you are going to maximize the number that you provide in the breath machine. So, it’s fairly important that you not burp or, if you do burp that they wait 20 minutes, or if you regurgitate, you really need to wash your mouth out because the remnants of the alcohol from your stomach and esophagus will be moved up into your mouth, and when you blow into the device, it’s going to have a crippling effect on the number that you blow. So, this mouth alcohol concept is fairly important that you be aware of it. Now, the breath machines that many states have, they’re supposed to have sort of a slope indicator, an alcohol slope indicator if you will, that measures when the BAC number drops off and/or measures spikes in the BAC number, which may be attributable to mouth alcohol.

How good do these things operate and do they work in every case? I certainly would not bet the farm on that. I would rather make sure that I had a clean mouth with no remnants of alcohol in there, because the consequences are too high. And, also, many states can actually turn off on their device their mouth alcohol detectors. So, one needs to be aware of this concept because it can have a very serious impact on the number you blew. So for example, if you know you went to the bar and only had two beers, which shouldn’t put you any higher than a 0.04, and then you coughed or something and all of a sudden you blew a 0.08 or a 0.10 in the machine, well, now you’re in trouble because now they can convict you of that number and your BAC was never that high in reality.


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